Sitting in traffic on my way home from work, the speakers begin to ring, it’s home calling.
“Hey,” says my husband, “guess who just called?”
“Hmmm, the elementary school, do they want to talk again?”
“Nope, not the elementary school,” my husband explains, “it was someone from the US Department of Education and he wants to know if you and Noah would be willing to speak.“
I can hear the increased tone of his voice and quickened pace, as he explains. “They are wondering if you guys would speak at the 40th Anniversary celebration of IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and, and… it’s at the WHITE HOUSE! I told them YES!”
At this point, I visualize a scene in a movie where the frame is paused and everything begins to rewind at high speed. What is happening? Who just called my house? How did they get my number? What has my husband just agreed to?
Well, here is how the story has unfolded thus far. As a result of talking and advocating and talking some more about children with dyslexia to stakeholders and anyone else who would listen, then combine that with my work at the Virginia State PTI working with families of special needs children in the public school system, Noah and I surfaced as a family who have a vested interest in IDEA. This is the federal law that serves and protects children with disabilities who receive services in public school. Next week is the 40-year celebration of IDEA.
But what has the last three weeks of our lives looked like, what actually happens when you say yes to speak at the White House. What happens when a regular family of 5, with 2 working parents whose 3 public school kids, 2 with special needs are invited to an event at the white house….. Chaos…. Ok maybe not chaos maybe more like 1 chaotic mom and four family members running interference and avoiding her if at all possible.
We have been vetted and cleared. Well, of course you say, you’re going to the white house. Social Security cards for all have been located; yes even the nine-year-old.
We have had multiple briefings. Again, expected, no? I mean, of course, I watch TV like the rest of you! The fourteen-year-old now is prepared to remotely dial into any conference call anywhere, a life skill I know he will need in the future! Check that box, done.
We have written speeches and had those cleared. Reminiscent of college professor feedback, praying it will be minimal because honestly you are pretty sure you have use up all the knowledge and creativity you had in that one piece.
We have dates, times, links, addresses, agendas and are fully informed that they are subject change at any time and without notice.
Really, we just need to practice and we are all set. Right? Next Wednesday we pick back up with our normal routine of drama, chorus, wrestling and gymnastics.
I share this story with a light heart because I don’t believe I have the words to portray the honor and humility I feel as a very regular mom who has been offered this opportunity. An opportunity that culminates much of the work I have dedicated my life to for the last five years. And an opportunity that will very much live in the hearts of my family for the rest of their lives.
Noah and I will speak at the White House event celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act on Tuesday, November 17, 2015, at 9:30 am. This event can be watched live on this link: https://www.whitehouse.gov/live